Saturday, May 30, 2009

Berkeley's Ed Roberts Center

In 1970, four students in wheelchairs were the first to leave the rehabilitation centers, or the homes from which they never left, to be admitted to UC Berkeley. The condition required was that they stay in the Cowell University Hospital so they could be cared for, in and out of their wheelchair, bathing, and daily life maintenance. It was a time when people were considering new ways to hold truths, some call it a social revolution period race, sex, age, class and physical disability found light of day in that time frame. Ed Roberts was one of those students, and he and his fellow mates at Cowell soon came up with a system of using Attendants who would allow them to live outside of Cowell independently. This was truly the beginning of the expectations of those with a physical disability that restricted their movement without a wheelchair to leave behind the life in the back room of their homes or the rehab sites, and go to college, get jobs, get married, have families, have their voice counted and heard in the community. For some time, University of California Berkeley was the Mecca of the Physically Disabled as a result. Ed Roberts graduated from Berkeley and in time went to Sacramento and was one of the authors of the Rehabilitation Bill that took the experience of these students from the site of Berkeley, California to all over the United States.

The neighborhood had a lukewarm response to the development of the Ed Roberts Center at the Ashby Bart Station initially. Real estate concerns about blocked views, etc. and the neighborhood felt sold out-"why South Berkeley, they wouldn't put up with this at the North Berkeley Bart Station." Many edgy, irritable, even angry meetings. That was years ago when the first notice was given of the Ed Roberts Center, a place of professional services and offices for the Physically Disabled community. South Berkeley is where La Pena, the former Black Panther office, and Starrey Plough, the first IRA bar are centered. People are active politically and skepticism is parr for the course. But as the construction takes form, the steel rigors and concrete are poured, you can literally feel the Ed Roberts Center pulling up and pulling together this neighborhood: Pushing the neighborhood towards a future worth sharing uniquely Berkeley.

No comments:

Post a Comment